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Thursday, October 10, 2013

I Saw Gravity

Help, I've fallen and I can't get up... or down... or sideways?  Which is it?

I saw my first real 3-D movie yesterday -- Gravity. It is an excellent movie, and worth the theater-going experience. Beautiful soundtrack. Sandra Bullock can do no wrong. Like a fine steak that stands without dressing or seasoning or fancy grill techniques. It's almost like a horror movie at times, but it's definitely a thriller. It boosts my love and appreciation for NASA and the space program. Government, you make me sad.


It's ninety minutes, but it doesn't feel ninety minutes because the tension is staggering. It's the proper evolution of the scariest parts of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I think you should see it in IMAX instead of 3-D though, for two reasons. One, an IMAX screen offers a bigger field of view that's more immersive. There's a lot of shots of space with lots of stars and details that work better on a bigger screen.

The second reason is what I wanted to talk about today. 3-D is neat, but it's a gimmick. It will always be a gimmick. It will never enhance the story-telling. It's better served when movies can use it cutely, not seriously. Like Friday the 13th Part 3 with popping eyeballs. Or theme park experiences like Terminator 3-D. 3-D is and always will have a fundamental flaw -- it's an illusion. And it's an illusion that takes you out of the story-telling experience.
I don't think he's really poking that machete through.  You, go touch it to make sure.

There are parts of Gravity where you forget that it's in 3-D. And then it goes somewhere where there's objects in space floating by you and you think "oh, yeah, this is in 3-D. Look at that neat pen floating around." But then A) you're focused on the neatness of the pen, not the story and B) the pen eventually floats out of frame, returning to the 2-D curtain from whence it came, and you're reminded that you're watching a screen. It's the same thing as video games have -- ludonarrative dissonance.

The 3-D pulls you out of the story. So it fails Gravity, which is serious and dramatic and better served by focusing on the environment and the characters. When you see something that doesn't make sense, like a water droplet floating in front of your eyes, or a very close object that wasn't there before, floating in from off-screen, it jars you out.

Horror movies or comedies, it's less of a big deal. Because things that happen in those movies are implausible anyway. People can't survive long falls or millions of bullets. Giant sharks don't exist and pianos don't drop on people. So 3-D is okay. It's in the same vein. But a movie like Gravity, it strives on realism and plausibility. So while the 3-D is neat, it doesn't add to the story. It distracts from it. Which is why I'm more certain now that 3-D won't become a standard. But it's a good way for movies to increase revenue in a world of Netflix and piracy.
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